How I quit my job to travel: The wedding photographer
When I decided to quit my job to travel, I did the opposite of what I would recommend: I took the "just go!" quotes literally, read inspirational gobbledygook about how we only live once – and told myself that if I took even an hour to think things through, I'd never end up travelling at all.
I was in my late twenties, fresh from a brutal divorce that had left me empty and confused. The moment I chose to take off, I was doing yoga on a rooftop in southern San Francisco. It was near dawn; the sun was forcing the rolling fog off the Santa Cruz Mountains. I was in the middle of a low lunge when the decision came to me: I would leave the US and travel until I could travel no more.
I had no savings (and only pennies in my checking account), plus more than $10,000 in debt, including a bill from my divorce lawyer that still needed paying. I had been abroad exactly four times, including just once as an adult. I had a comfortable income as a wedding photographer, complete with a three-storey house with two cars; I’d never stayed in a hostel or travelled alone. I didn’t even own a traveller’s backpack.
What I did have were two assignments as a travel photographer under my belt – and with that alone, I thought, it would be easy. I could take those connections and travel around the world, going from assignment to assignment via press junkets.
My first experience was a road trip from Toronto to Las Vegas, paid for by a car delivery service. Other sponsored trips followed and I started a travel blog. It was intended to be my calling card for assignment travel photography.
Yet even with my blog and past experience, email after email I sent to publications, trying to get work, went unanswered. When they did get in touch, editors told me that I had no chance of making a career with travel photography; my only chance was to also provide the writing. While I struggled to get on the path that I wanted, and as I expanded my blog to help get me there, I found myself wearing the hat of a full-time blogger.
Luckily, I got in at the right time. It was 2010, and the travel industry was just starting to turn its attention to bloggers. As I never could have predicted, my blogging – not my for-assignment photography – did take me around the world. I never had a corporate sponsor, like some other travel bloggers, but I was able to link one press junket to the next, where all of my travel was paid for by destinations or brands. Over the next four years, I visited every continent but Antarctica.
One good strategy I had early on was to become active on social media, concentrating on Twitter and Instagram. At first, it was for personal reasons: I was desperately trying to find a community to replace those that had evaporated from my life given my divorce and move. I realized later that it was also free marketing for my blogging and photography. Within two years, I was being asked to speak at travel blogging conferences. Today, I have developed a name for myself in the niches of mobile photography and technology – an effort that has helped me both make connections within the industry and nurture a network of friends around the world.
The longer I was nomadic, the more cultures I experienced. The more years I put between myself and my divorce, the more I healed. My problems didn't go away, of course – problems only become our baggage, carried with us as we roam – but I began to see how I'd created my own problems, and saw how I could avoid them in the future.
Even more inspiring, however, was when I saw that my travels were also helping other people. My blog and social media followers saw that I chased my dreams, even when the odds were stacked against me – and told me over and over again how they needed that kind of example, which was absent in their lives elsewhere.